4 Ways to Build Reporter Relationships (And Get Your Clients Placed)

By Alexea Candreva
Alexea Candreva spends her days getting clients front and center in the news. After hours, you can find her conquering her next big hike, perfecting her gluten-free baking or brushing up her amateur photography skills.
 

As a PR professional, you don’t always get positive responses back from reporters you’re pitching – or even responses at all. You’re eager for coverage in top publications, but you sometimes hit what feels like a dead end in your pitching efforts, even with an awesome topic. Reporters don’t seem interested in what your pitches say, or maybe they aren’t reading them in the first place.

Securing coverage in top publications can be tough, but the more you nurture your reporter relationships, the more positive responses you’ll find in your inbox.

Positive responses are the start of the relationship – and the stronger your relationships become, the more opportunities you’ll have to get your clients coverage.

Here are four ways to help you connect and begin building lasting reporter relationships:

1. Understand Where Reporters Are Coming From

Reporters are often overwhelmed and overstressed, trying to sift through mountains of pitches and write articles under the weight of pressing deadlines.

Imagine: You have to bake a cake for a party that starts in a few hours. When you go to the pantry to start prepping, a bunch of strangers show up, interrupt you and start handing you the wrong ingredients.

The quickest way to get a reporter to ignore you is to pitch them something that isn’t relevant.

Do your research and make sure you’re pitching topics relevant to the reporter and what they write on. Then, focus on sending thoughtful, targeted pitches that can easily translate into relevant articles for your client. The more you can equip a reporter with the tools to do their job well, the more they’ll enjoy working with you and come back for future sources.

2. And Know Where They Go

You can increase your chances of getting a response by delivering your message in the right medium: where the reporter is looking.

Look for the places a reporter does their research as a starting point. Do they tweet when they’re searching for sources? Do they post upcoming article topics online through tools like HARO? Or do they share editorial calendars with future stories and publication dates?

Connecting through their platform of choice increases the chances of your pitch catching their attention and earning a response.

3. Match a Reporter’s Tone

Once you get interest from a reporter, match their tone to show you can communicate with them efficiently and understand where they’re coming from.

If a reporter sends you a smiley face emoji in their email, it’s safe to respond with more informal language. If they send you a one-line email with a few words missing, you should focus on getting straight to the point in your next response.

By following their lead and mimicking their tone, you’ll build trust, strengthen the relationship and increase your chances of securing coverage.

4. Reach out When You Don’t Have to

It’s important to stay in contact with reporters besides just strict pitching. Send a proactive email asking about upcoming deadlines. Or, send a quick tweet on how their favorite team did last night. And don’t forget to email a quick “thank you” when they publish an article on your client. Regular contact is crucial and can go a long way in building reporter relationships.

Here’s a great example: A reporter at Inc. tweeted that he wanted a Unicorn Frappuccino, which was highly trending at the time, so my colleague ordered one online and had it delivered to the reporter. No agenda, no pitch – just pure, old-fashioned relationship building. She got his attention in a creative and memorable way, and now they trade emails regularly when he’s looking for a source.

When you build reporter relationships, the barriers to getting your clients placed start disappearing. Exchange cold-call style pitching for creative and considerate communication, and you’ll be well on your way to reporter relationship building 101 – and client coverage to boot.

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